Friday, 19 April 2013 00:00
There was no bigger annual event during my childhood than The 4:30 Movie popular episodes Planet of the Apes week. Once The 4:30 Movie opening movie cameraman graphic began rolling and the iconic melody humming, Dada-dada-dada-dada-dada, my friends and I would jostle around our old RCA television for a prime viewing spot. For 90 minutes, we were glued to the TV and after five afternoons of movie classics like Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Escape from the Planet of the Apes, we were brainwashed with the idea of man-like apes roaming the Earth at some future date.
Although, we were keenly aware of the word “gorilla”, the movie had created a slightly new meaning. It should come as no surprise what went through the minds this group of kids when we heard on the radio a few days later that a number of Americans were killed by “guerilla” fighters. Indeed, there was a very clear picture of what was happening - militant “gorillas” were running amuck in the countryside! Fortunately the difference between “gorilla” and “guerilla” was cleared up for these second graders before bedtime, but it does illustrate the importance of background knowledge and building upon a foundation of knowledge – it truly promotes understanding over time.
With the new Common Core learning standards, state officials seem to be rushing students to abstract concepts before they have developed the foundation for these higher-level skills. Of course, the State Education Department can mandate that students read passages from the author of War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, in 3rd grade. However, it still won’t change the fact that our children are still kids who haven’t had the reading experiences or background knowledge to master Tolstoy.
In truth, it is very difficult to bypass many of these learning layers and then ask students to master higher-level skills. It’s a sequential process. Unfortunately, the consequences of assessing students on items that they are not developmentally ready for is failure.
Clearly, the State Education Department (SED) is now aware of this because SED has announced that the new assessments will result in mass failures. In fact at a recent press conference, the state’s top educational commissioners have projected that more than half of the state’s students will fail. Unbelievable!
Although I wish I could send Charlton Heston’s character, “Taylor”, in the original Apes movie to Albany to straighten things out, we just want this “monkey business” to stop, so we can get back to the task of educating our young people.